Monday, September 8, 2008

The Food of the Gods - FGFC movie review

This review marks my initiation into the Final Girl Film Club - click on through and see what other movie lovin' folks are saying.

You know what I thought I just hadn't seen enough of? Movies featuring giant mutated murderous animals. I can remember watching Them on regular, pre-cable television once as a kid and being like, "Whoa. Those are big ants." I was certain that The Food of the Gods, "[b]ased on a portion of H.G. Wells' novel," was going to be just like that, only more like: "Whoa. Those are big wasps, rats, chickens and maggots, with rockin' Seventies fashion and hairstyles."

To relax before a big game, two pro football players and their PR guy, Morgan (our hero, sporting a serious white man's 'fro), Brian and maybe Steve, head up to the wilds of a British Columbia island for some R&R. They have an outstanding yellow Jeep that I coveted immediately, although I don't understand why they insisted on driving with the windshield folded down all the time. While chasing a deer with dogs on horseback (the men were on horseback, not the dogs), Steve gets separated from his buddies and is quickly attacked and killed by giant fake wasps and a shaky-cam. It should be noted that the dogs were much smarter than the men and refused to go into the woods where the giant fake wasps were lurking.

Trying to find help, Morgan finds a farm in the middle of the island. He opens the shed door and is immediately attacked by a giant rooster. He fends the giant rooster off, finally killing it with a pitchfork. There are also several giant hens in the shed but they are completely uninterested in the tiny, bleeding man - which was probably fortunate for Morgan. He finds the farmer's wife, Mrs. Skinner (played by Ida Lupino) who shows him jars of the Food that she and her husband found seeping out of a rock on their property. They mixed it with chicken feed and fed it to their chicks, which is how they ended up with a shedful of giant chickens.

Apparently the Food only stimulates growth in the young of the species; nothing happened to the adult chickens who ate it, except that they in turn got eaten by the giant poultry. Mr. Skinner is currently in "the city" making a "money deal" for the rights to this miracle-grow and Mrs. Skinner is holding down the fort 'til he gets back. She's a little concerned about the rat holes in her kitchen wall, however. Realizing that Mrs. S is possibly nuts, Morgan collects his Jeep and he and Brian take their dead friend back to "the city." Meanwhile, Mrs. S gets attacked by giant meal-worms in her kitchen. It's about as exciting as it sounds.

That dark and stormy night, Mr. S is driving his cool red Volkswagen Bug (the cars in this flick are outstanding) home through the woods when he gets a flat tire and is subsequently attacked by giant rats who snarl and squeal like mountain lions. What's awesome is the editing between the giant fake rat heads coming after Mr. S and the shots of real rats swarming over a toy car. The miniature shots are actually pretty well done. The giant rats quickly dispatch Mr. S but with very little blood and no gore (this is a PG-rated movie after all).

In the morning, a ruthless businessman, a "female bacteriologist" (because we couldn't tell she was a woman? ack) and a young couple who were stranded in their RV meet up with the football guys at the Skinner farm, Morgan and Brian having come back to destroy the giant animals themselves, rather than calling in the National Guard or CDC. Now that the entire cast has been assembled, the action really kicks in as the swarm of giant rats besieges the farmhouse. Shotguns blast*, Molotov cocktails are thrown and poor Ida Lupino falls prey to a giant rat but manages to take it out with a cleaver at the same time. Morgan finally saves the day by blowing up a strategically-placed dam and drowning all the giant rats (giant rats can't swim because of gravity). But a half-full jar of the Food gets swept away in the flood, ending up in a cow pasture. And the last shot of the movie is a kindergartner drinking milk ... because the Food only affects the young of the species. Oooooooh - ominous!

This was a dud of a movie: bad acting, no character development for the first forty minutes, terrible giant animal effects and an implausible solution. That being said, I did start to enjoy the second half once the action started and, as I mentioned, the live rats with the miniatures were done pretty well considering the 1976 F/X technology. Plus having the rats make cougar-screams was very excellent. However, having now seen F.O.T.G., I think I'm well-sated with the giant mutated animal movies for a while.

*I'm not entirely sure the ASPCA approved F.O.T.G., or maybe the humane treatment of movie animals hadn't really kicked in back in 1976. Chasing deer with dogs is mean (and totally illegal here in Maine) and I think some rats may have been harmed in the making of this movie.


  1. Oh no, Friend Mouse, look away from the screen! :(

    Yah, Stacie's review prompted me to find out when monitoring began:

    The American Humane Association - the "No Animals Were Harmed"® folks - has overseen movie sets since 1940.

    Deliberate malice towards rats for entertainment purposes. Uncool, man.

  2. I know, right? I was ready to feel some mus mus/rattus norvegicus solidarity and then aarrrggh! Poor rats. I think I was even more outraged by the deer chase, however. Even if those dogs were trained not to hurt the deer, you can't train a deer not to panic in front of barking, slavering dogs. I guess they just did the humane society thing differently up there in 1970s Canada.